There are some simple ways to set up one’s basement so when water damage happens the damage is minimized. If you want to finish your basement or have a finished basement already using this advice can greatly reduce the costs of drying out and repair.
Select flooring that will not be damaged by water of any sort. Carpet, vinyl tile, sheet vinyl, hardwood and laminates can all be damaged beyond all repair by most kinds of water. Carpet and laminates are the most susceptible to damage, followed by hardwood. With clean water we can dry out carpets but if there is any contamination or if the carpet has been wet more than once we must remove it because there is actually no way to remove the contaminants. Laminate wood floors very often will absorb some water causing the edges or whole board to swell. With the way that they are made the swelling can never come down. Hardwood is better than these two options, however drying it out is sometimes more expensive than replacing it entirely. Also if highly contaminated water, such as sewage, gets under hardwood it needs to be removed. If Vinyl gets water under it also must be removed.
The best flooring options for a basement are either going to be a ceramic/porcelain tile or a hard paint such as an epoxy. These are 95% of the time able to be simply cleaned and the surface dried which is very fast and easy. Area rugs can make them warmer and softer and are much easier to replace or clean if they get contaminated or dirty than carpet.
Next is the walls. When drywall is installed it is usually set on the subfloor, stood up and screwed in place, however if any water gets on the floor the drywall gets wet and if that water is groundwater, sewage, etc the drywall will need to be removed. If water goes under the wall we also have to dry out the wood base plates (the board that runs along the bottom of the wall) and when doing this through drywall it takes a while.
There is a very simple solution. When the drywall is installed have the contractor put a two inch gap between the drywall and the ground. Use 3 or more inch baseboards to cover this gap. This makes it so that standing water has to be pretty deep to get at it and if the base plates do need to be dried out we simply remove the baseboards and put fans on it with a dehumidifier running. Using aluminum studs instead of wood makes it all the faster because then nothing is touching the ground that can absorb water.
Two inches may not seem like a lot but in a 1,000 square foot basement this makes it so you would need to have over 1,200 gallons of water come into your basement before the drywall gets wet.
Your foundation can leak through cracks. Also water can come straight through concrete. Having your foundation specialist check it before you finish your basement can prevent a fair amount of heartache, damage and repair later. If there are any cracks or other problems he may recommend anything from pressing epoxy into cracks to a system that channels water from the walls through the floor to a sump pump. Make sure you find a real professional though, if they do it wrong it can cause more problems for you in the future that are then harder to find.
Testing your sump pump, if you have one, and making sure you have a battery backup, goes a long way in terms of preventing basement flooding. Having your main drain and floor drains cleared periodically and a camera run down is a maintenance action every home owner should do, having this done once a year or more frequently can save thousands in cleanup costs.
Now you may ask how to keep mold from growing in a basement with regard to finishing. There are several ways to handle this in advance. First use mold resistant materials and paints, such as green drywall, fiberglass insulation instead of cellulose and mold resistant primers. Placing a self draining dehumidifier in a central location also will make it so that the humidity doesn’t get high enough for mold to grow.
When you do get water in your basement it is vital to call Fast Help right away so that we can get out and dry everything right away. Any delay can allow mold to grow in any materials that have organic substances in them. Speed is of the essence when dealing with water to prevent further damage.